Innal-Hamdalillah was-Salaatu was-Salaam `alaa Rasoolillah
as-Salaamu `alaykum wa-RaHmatullahi wa-Barakatuhu
Glad Tidings for the Strangers
Jamaal ad-Din Zarabozo
The Friday Prayer: Part III
Allaah says in the Qur'aan
"And most of mankind will not believe even if you desire it eagerly". (Yusuf, 103)
Allaah also says,
"But most of mankind refuses [the truth and accepts nothing] but disbelief" (al-Isra, 89)
In yet another verse, Allaah states,
"Indeed, We have brought the Truth to you but most of them have a hatred for the Truth" (al-Zukhruf, 78)
In these verses and, in fact, in numerous other places in the Qur'aan, Allaah has told us that the majority of mankind refuses to follow the truth [see also Ghafir 61, Yusuf 106, al-Nahl 83, al-Shuara 8, 67, 103, 121, and 223]. Indeed, a hadith in Sahih Muslim described that of all of mankind, nine hundred and ninety nine out of every one thousand will be in the Hellfire.
This means that the true believers will always be in the minority. As they look around themselves, they will see the majority of mankind turning their backs on the teachings and guidance of Allaah. They prefer disbelief and disobedience to faith and obedience to Allaah.
The believer will look like a stranger in their midst. His beliefs, actions and way of life will be completely different from theirs. The disbelievers may even do their best to make him feel like a stranger, someone who does not belong, someone with strange ideas and practices. They may be ridiculed. Psychological pressures may be put upon them. The media may attack them and so forth.
For many Muslims, al-Hamdulillaah, this kind of strangeness is easy to withstand. This is because the believer will feel "proud" to be different from the disbelievers. That is, he will known and realise that he wants to be different from the disbelievers who have turned their back on their Lord. He will feel happy that Allaah has guided him to the straight path and He has allowed all those others to stray. He will feel the dignity of Islaam. He will feel the honour of being a Muslim. He will feel honoured to be among the strangers in the midst of the disbelievers. This kind of strangeness he can withstand when he recognises the truth of Islaam and the importance of following the way of the believers. Indeed, he will even seek to distance himself further from the disbelievers and their ungodly ways. He will not want to have anything to do with their kufr and jaahiliyyah.
Yet there is another form of "strangeness". This strangeness is much more dangerous and threatening to the faith and beliefs of a Muslim. This is the strangeness that occurs while the person is among themselves - among those people who claim to be believing in Allaah and following His Path. This kind of strangeness can be much more harmful because it can confuse the Muslim. This strangeness occurs among those people who are supposed to be his brothers and sisters in Islaam. It might even lead him to ask himself, "Aren't we all Muslims? Why is my practice so much different than theirs? Why do they consider me as a stranger or outsider?" Shaytan then might convince him to abandon the path he was following and to fall in with the masses and their actions.
This very important "strangeness" is the strangeness described by the Prophet (saw) in a number of his hadith.
The Prophet (saw) said "Islaam began as something strange and it will revert to how it began as something strange. So glad tidings of Paradise (1) to the strangers"
The people asked, "Who are they, O Messenger of Allaah?" He answered, "Those who are pious and righteous when the people have become evil." (Ahmad, ibn Hibban and others, sahih due to supporting evidences, see Badr al-Badr's footnotes to Abu Bakr al-Ajari, Kitaab al-Ghurabaa (Kuwait: Dar al-Khulata li-Kitaab al-Islaami, 1983) pp.16-18)
In another narration, after the Prophet (saw) gave the good tidings to the strangers and he was asked who they were, he answered,
"A small group of pious people among a large group of evil people. Those who disobey them [disobey the pious people] are more than those who obey them". [Ahmad, at-Tabarani, and others. After a lengthy discussion al-Awdah concludes that this hadith is hasan see Salman al-Awdah, Al-Ghuraba al-Awaloon, al-Damam: Dar ibn al-Jawzi, 1989, pp.37-39)
There is no question that Islaam has become something strange today. Those who are truly sticking to the Qur'aan, the sunnah of the Prophet (saw) and the practices of the best generations are few indeed in comparison to the vast number of Muslims that exist.
It must be realised by all that there is only one Islaam. That is the Islaam of the Qur'aan and Sunnah. That is the Islaam that was practised and preached by the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and passed on to his Companions and their Followers. This is one true Islaam. Allaah says,
"And verily this is My Straight Path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His Path" (al-Anaam, 153)
Its validity and correctness will last until the Day of Judgement.
Yet how many people today are following that true Islaam?
There is a phenomena occurring in this country and elsewhere throughout the world. Some speakers and Islaamic groups are presenting what they claim to be the true Islaam. Among the many things they are saying is that there is no Jihaad in Islaam, the Christians and Jews are our brothers and are true believers, Interest in permissible, women do not have to wear hijaab or the hijaab that they must wear is simply something to cover their hair, mixing between men and women is not only permissible but was the sunnah of the Prophet (saw). There are some who claim that it is not actually necessary to follow the commands and guidance of the Qur'aan and Sunnah literally. Islaam is something merely spiritual and has nothing to do with the mundane and political world.
These and many others things are being presented as the true Islaam by many people throughout the world. Perhaps all of you have come across such people. If anyone opposes such ideas and concepts they are immediately labelled "extremists", "fundamentalists", "backwards", and so forth. The one who truly follows the Qur'aan and Sunnah amidst such people will find himself to be an outcast. They will treat him as if he does not know Islaam. They will treat him as if he is the strangest person on earth. They will treat him as if he were a "stranger"!
Islaam has indeed become something strange, as the Prophet (saw) told us it would. Those who live their lives according to the Qur'aan and Sunnah and not according to the whims of the time, specific speakers or groups - are definately in the minority today.
What can be done in such a situation for the person who wishes to follow the Qur'aan and Sunnah, yet he is surrounded by such evil, ignorance and rejection of the clear right path?
One must always remember the great tidings that the Prophet (saw) gave to those who would be in that situation:
The Prophet (saw) has given the glad tidings of a tree in Paradise for those who have to live as strangers because the people are deviating from the teachings of the Qur'aan and Sunnah. What is the characteristic of this tree in Paradise? The Prophet (saw) explained that also when he said,
"Tuba is a tree in Paradise. The time it takes to transverse it is one hundred years. The clothing of the inhabitants of Paradise are taken from its sheaths." (Ahmad, Ibn Jareer at-Tabari in his Tafsir and Ibn Hibban, hasan according to al-Albaani see Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, vol.4, p.639)
This glad tiding of the tree of Tuba for the strangers should make us all wish, strive and aspire to be from among the strangers in this time in which Islaam has truly become strange again.
Therefore we must ask: Who are those strangers, what are their characteristics, and how do we become one of them? From the hadith of the Prophet (saw) it is clear that these praiseworthy "strangers" have two glaring characteristics:
First, they are those people who stick to the Shariah and the way of the Prophet (saw) in the midst of the Muslims. That is, if someone wants to know if he is truly from among the strangers, the first sign is for him to look to see if he is applying the shariah and if he is following in the footsteps of the Prophet (saw). If he finds that he is actually not following the footsteps of the Prophet (saw), if he finds that he is straying from the Shariah and the sunnah for whatever reason and for whatever excuse that he has heard or that he dreams up himself, he must realise that he is not from the praiseworthy strangers. He must realise that he is not one of the people whom the Prophet (saw) had given the glad tidings of Tuba, the tree in Paradise.
Second, the praiseworthy strangers are those who are calling for a return to the true Islaam, the Islaam of the Qur'aan and the Sunnah. They are those who are trying to make things right and proper while people are straying from the straight path.
If we can combine these two qualities in ourselves today - when Islaam has become something strange - then, Allaah willing, we will be from among the strangers whom the Prophet (saw) gave glad tidings to. I pray that Allaah makes us all to be among those praiseworthy strangers.
Dear brothers and sisters, we must realise now before it is too late that if we are not from among those strangers who have received those glad tidings from the Prophet (saw) then we are from among a different group of strangers. This is a blameworthy group of strangers. These are those people who are strangers to the truth. These are those people who are strangers to the way of the Qur'aan and Sunnah. These are those people who, when they see people applying the Qur'aan and Sunnah in their midst, they turn away from them and flee from the truth. When they see the true Islaam, they say that it is unacceptable. In many cases, Shaytaan has made them completely blind and strange to the truth.
In reality, these people are also a type of stranger. These people are even strangers to their own souls! It is part of their own nature or fitra to worship Allaah and to recognise Allaah as their Lord. Instead they turn their backs to what is in their own souls and follow a way of life that is alien to themselves. Since they are strangers to their own souls, they will never achieve true happiness in either this life or the Hereafter.
If we are not from the praiseworthy set of strangers, then, in fact, we are from the blameworthy set of strangers. This blameworthy group of strangers may be large in number. They may even have lots of influence and pull. But the reality is that they are strangers to the truth. They are strangers to their own souls. We ask Allaah to save us from falling into their ranks.
We must face facts and be realistic, though. Sometimes it is very difficult to be strong and to remain among the praiseworthy strangers. There are many pressures coming from all around you that try to make you deviate from what you know to be true Islaam to accept the many practices and teachings that are being spread today. The Prophet (saw) also described this situation. He said
"After you there are going to be days of patience. The patience during that time is like the one clutching on to a hot coal" (Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and numerous others. It is hasan due to its supporting evidences. See Salman al-Awdah, Sifaat al-Ghuraba, p. 198, fn. 3)
Indeed you may actually feel like that when you are striving to be among the strangers.
You will face difficulties from your own family - those people closest to you, who you grew up with and who may be the last people in the world that you wish to hurt. Your family may not be from the praiseworthy strangers and they will put pressure upon you not to be from among them also. They will tell you not to mix or practice like those "extremists" but to be just like them - taken Islaam in a way that is not the way of the Prophet (saw). If you and your wife do not mix freely with them, they will question you and pester you until you are almost forced to give in. If you do not party with them or participate in their wrong actions - that they claim are permissible or simply harmless - they may treat you as an outcast and may even stop talking to you. Yes, this kind of pressure might even come from your own family.
Your friends will also put pressure on you. They will make excuses for their behaviour and expect you to go along with them. They might argue that there is nothing wrong with alcohol or drugs, having girlfriends and so forth because everyone today is doing it and Allaah is Most-Forgiving and Most Merciful. You might find all of your Muslim colleagues buying houses on interest and encouraging you to do the same. You might even have to come to a point where you will have to choose between keeping your friends and following what you can clearly see is the truth. Then if you do make the decision to disassociate yourselves from them due to their evil, they will begin to backbite you and spread evil lies about you. This is all part of the plot of Satan, who uses his followers to keep people from the straight path and from being praiseworthy strangers.
What is even worse is that there are some speakers and "scholars" who are presenting a "Islaam" that is foreign to the Islaam of the Prophet (saw) and his Companions. How can you deal and discuss with others when they answer, "So and so shaikh, Imaam or scholar said it is Ok. Do you have more knowledge than him?" This way they trick you into either saying you do have more knowledge - thus being arrogant - or accepting what the scholar says although you know it is clearly wrong according to the teachings of the shariah.
Many Muslims who stick to the Qur'aan and Sunnah today begin to get the feeling that they are the only ones who think in the manner that they do. They even begin to ask themselves, "Am I weird? Is there something wrong with me? Am I not understanding Islaam correctly? Perhaps Islaam is meant to be easy and I should just go with the flow". They feel isolated. They feel that there is no one who thinks in the same way they do. They begin to think that there must be something wrong with them. No there is nothing wrong with them! But they are strangers and they know that they cannot just go with the masses.
When you know for certain that you are applying the Qur'aan and Sunnah correctly, and that the others are actually not applying them, and you begin to ask yourselves these questions, you should rejoice. You have now become one of the strangers, Allaah willing. Know and remember that it is good to be stranger in times when Islaam has become something strange. Keep in mind the tidings from the Prophet (saw)
"The tree in Paradise is for the strangers".
When many people around you are following false paths and putting pressure on you to do likewise, remember that you are responsible only for your own soul and those that stray will not be able to harm you if you stick to the straight path. Allaah says in the Qur'aan,
"O you who believe, take care of your own selves. No hurt can come to you from those who are in error if you follow the right guidance." (al-Maidah, 105)
Remember, also, that those who stray also will not be able to help you in the Hereafter if you decide to stray with them.
Remember also the reward for being patient during such times. I mentioned a portion of a hadith of the Prophet (saw) earlier. Here it is in its entirety:
"After you there are going to be days of patience. The patience during that time is like the one clutching on to a hot coal. The one who works and does good deeds during that time will receive the reward of fifty men who do deeds similar to him".
They asked, "O Messenger of Allaah, fifty people of them [at that time]?" He answered,
"The reward of fifty from among you [the Companions]" (2)
Allaah willing, by sticking and adhering to the Qur'aan and Sunnah in these days - when Islaam has become strange, when people are following their own opinions or the opinions of others in preference to the Qur'aan and Sunnah, when people are chasing after this world and forgetting about the Hereafter - those people who try to oppose you will not be able to harm you in any way. You will be from among those Muslims whom the Prophet (saw) described in the following hadith:
"A group of my nation will always remain truimphant on the right path and continue to be truimphant (against their opponents). He who deserts them shall not be able to do them any harm. They will remain in this position until Allaah's Command (the day of Judgement) is executed". (Muslim)
Your loneliness and being a stranger in this life will be replaced by being with the best companions in the Hereafter. In the Hereafter, Allaah willing, you will be united with the Prophets, the martyrs, the sincere and the righteous - those upon whom Allaah has bestowed His grave. You suffered as a stranger in this world for the sake of Allaah and Allaah will replace your suffering with the best of companions in the Hereafter.
Do not despair! Do not be sad! Do not worry about those people who are the strangers to the truth. As long as you are certain that you are truly following the footsteps of the Prophet (saw) and his Companions, know that you are on the Straight Path. Those around you who have strayed are strangers to the truth and have no glad tidings to look forward to. You, on the other hand, have the glad tidings of the Prophet (saw):
"Tuba [the tree in Paradise] is for the Strangers"
(1) The Prophet (saw) in this hadith literally stated that tuba is for the strangers. Tuba is the name of a tree in Paradise. Hence the Prophet (saw) was giving the glad tidings of Paradise to the strangers.
(2) Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and numerous others. It is hasan due to its supporting evidences. See Salman al-Awdah, Sifaat al-Ghuraba, p.198, fn.3. It is an authentic hadith. However, note that there is a difference between "reward" (ajr), and "merit" (fadhl). The "merit" of the Companions will not be reached by anyone of the later generations.